HOSPITAL chiefs insist patients are regularly offered pieces of fruit with their meals despite a national survey suggesting otherwise.
Health bosses have released league tables where hospital trusts are scored on their catering for patients, with factors including the quality of meals and the choices available to them.
The University Hospital of Hartlepool and the University Hopsital of North Tees, in Stockton, scored 89.4 per cent and 82.9 per cent respectively in the section of quality.
The Holdforth Road hospital’s choice of food was rated at 87.4 per cent, with Stockton’s slightly less at 86.6 per cent.
But of the 22 hospitals reviewed across the North East region - which included smaller community hospitals - the facilities run by the North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation trust were highlighted for not serving fruit with every meal.
The only other hospital in the region to fall into this category was the Royal Victoria Infirmary, in Newcastle.
But Trust bosses were quick to point out that patients are given the choice of having fruit up to four times each day.
The table was published on the NHS Choices website and has been put together using feedback from of patients, nurses and carers between March and June this year. Health Secretary Jeremy Hunt recently announced that hospitals must now abide by new compulsory food standards, to drive up the quality of their meals.
Any trusts which are deemed to be not following the rules would be in breach of their “commissioning contract” and could be disciplined.
Mr Hunt said: “We are making the NHS more transparent, giving patients the power to compare food on wards and incentivising hospitals to raise their game.
“Many hospitals are already offering excellent food to their patients and staff. But we want to know that all patients have nourishing and appetising food to help them get well faster and stay healthy.”
A health panel which included nutritionists and representatives from the charity Age UK recommended hospitals must:
l Screen patients for malnutrition and give each a food plan.
l Ensure patients get the help they need to eat and drink, including “protected meal times” where appropriate.
l Promote healthy diets for staff and visitors – complying with Government recommendations on salt, saturated fats and sugar.
l Source food in a “sustainable way” - so it is also good for the food industry and bought within the local economy if possible.
Colin Chapman, head of catering for North Tees and Hartlepool NHS Foundation Trust, said: “The standard of food in our hospitals is very good – something we know through the regular positive feedback we get from patients.
“We work hard to ensure every patient’s diverse set of needs are met. We run about six or seven different types of menus for our patients so that everyone has something available to them that they enjoy – whether it be for children, the elderly or people from a range of different cultures.
“Fruit is also included on our patient menus twice a day and is also offered twice as a snack during the day.
“Over the last number of years there has been a huge drive to raise standards in hospital food and huge improvements have been made as a result. These league tables have certainly helped highlight to us areas where we still need to improve and they will only help us continue to drive standards up.”